Connecting Oxford Plus

Connecting Oxford is the city and county councils’ proposal to improve transportation in Oxford. It (1) takes through-car traffic out of the city centre and (2) takes through-traffic out of the inner ring-road (B4495). Both of these would be accomplished by ANPR cameras to allow transit of permitted vehicles (in particular, buses, hence “bus gates”). A workplace parking levy would apply to larger employers along the B4495. This would simultaneously discourage car use and help pay for a new bus route along the B4495, linking the northern park and rides to the park and ride at Redbridge in the south.

The proposal was put to a public survey in autumn 2019, clearing the way for more detailed planning in winter 2020.

COVID-19

OLS believes Connecting Oxford is an incomplete version of one that could enable far greater use of COVID-19-ready modes of transport — cycling and walking — plus massively increased bus usage in a public-transport-ready state of the world.

Two more bus gates

Two additional bus gates are needed to prevent heavy use of south-east Oxford corridors Iffley and Cowley roads to avoid the Hollow Way bus gate. The locations of these two gates are:

  • London Place and
  • Warneford Lane.

As shown in the map below, the current drive-time reported by Google Maps between A34/Southern-bypass and the JR Hospital is 12 minutes by Iffley Road versus 14 minutes by London Road. Without bus gates on St Clements (just south of Marston Road) and Warneford Lane, these will be default options once Hollow Way is bus-gated.

Win-win

The existing version of Connecting Oxford has five bus gates: three to remove through-traffic from the city centre and two to prioritise bus passage along the B4495. Our version has seven, adding gates east and west of South Park. This effectively segments the city within the outer ring road into four zones as shown in the maps. This seven-gate approach will have the virtues of zoned systems put to use to great effect elsewhere.

One of the key virtues is massive increment to cycling modal share. The city of Ghent in Belgium discovered that its zoned system, implemented in 2017, induced a cycling modal share by 2019 that wasn’t expected until 2030. When private cars are comparatively discouraged, the added space for other modes induces the use of them. But Ghent’s car drivers also discovered they could get to their destinations faster because the reduced congestion more than made up for the more circuitous routes. Zoned systems give space to drive for those who need it.

We describe the seven-gate plan as “win-win” because this plan not only helps enable COVID-19-ready forms of sustainable transport right now, it also sets the scene for an even better bus network in future. The numbers 4, 8, 9, and 13 bus routes pass through the anticipated extra bus gates, as do several routes further afield. Moreover, bus travel along Cowley and Iffley roads (routes 1, 3, 5, 10 and 16, as well as routes further afield) will be massively enhanced by the reduction in private-car volume on these two roads if bus gates are introduced on London Place and Warneford Lane.

The map below shows in detail the location of the two additional bus gates needed in Connecting Oxford.

Connecting Oxford and other elements of transport improvement

We recognise that both councils are pushing ahead with a wide array of transport improvements with sustainability at their heart. We applaud them. Examples include the adoption of an Oxford LCWIP (pdf) (which has been cited nationally for its ambition), application to central government to fund the LCWIP, expansion of the Zero Emission Zone, deployment of cargo-bike delivery prioritisation, and many others. Below, we highlight two more.

City council “Wish list”

On May 11, Oxford City Council published a wish list of public-realm improvements to help kick-start the city centre economy and to contribute to public health in the long term. These include the decades-overdue de-motorisation of Broad Street. We urge the county council to add some of these “wish list” improvements to Connecting Oxford and, if necessary, re-run the survey. Experience shows that the public are more amenable to grand transport plans when they are seen to give significant public realm improvements to the public whilst also making demands of the public in terms of upending decades-old patterns of travel.

Liveable neighbourhoods

In addition to having endorsed the best LCWIP in the country, the county council have just finished an engagement exercise on the long-term vision for transport. Among the many concepts in the long-term vision is the “Low-traffic neighbourhood” (which we call a liveable neighbourhood, or LN). The final form of Connecting Oxford has particular relevance to the prioritisation of LNs:

_ Adoption of the seven-gated version of Connecting Oxford makes Headington Quarry the priority for LN treatment. This area is already overrun by extra-neighbourhood car journeys — journeys that neither originate nor terminate in the Quarry area. An LN here should cover a roughly 1 sq-km area and will be even more crucial given the added pressure to reach Headington workplaces and the JR hospital by private car. Such journeys need to be routed onto the proper through-route arterial infrastructure. Traffic evaporation will prevent such routes from experiencing the ‘gridlock’ that many will fear will result from a Quarry LN.

_ Adoption of the existing five-gated version of Connecting Oxford means LN treatment will be urgent in several East Oxford neighbourhoods, in addition to Quarry in Headington. Already, in East Oxford alone, LN campaigns are springing up in: Divinity-Road area; St Marys Ward area; Florence Park, and Church Cowley area. Each of these will need modal filtering to deal with the increased pressures of through-traffic trying to reach Headington and Marston from the south of Oxford (and vice-versa).

The moment for leadership

Oxfordshire Liveable Streets and our partners in the Coalition for Healthy Streets and Active Travel (CoHSAT) enthusiastically welcomed the councils’ ambition when Connecting Oxford was unveiled in summer 2019. As of now, spring/summer 2020, the context has changed in ways that we will only begin fully to appreciate in the months and years to come. We urge our leaders to revisit their pre-COVID-19 plans, upgrade them in the key ways we’ve outlined, and if necessary re-engage the public on them.

Local authorities across the UK are taking steps to make it easier to store a bicycle. London is the key example. Glasgow and Edinburgh are also on the case.

The on-street cycle hangar replaces one car space with secure, covered storage for six cycles.

In streets with narrow pavements, a four-cycle unit can be positioned perpendicular to the pavement. Safe access to the hangar is provided via a bollard (as in Figure 1 below) or by standing two units face-to-face (Figure 2).

Example: Regent Street in East Oxford

Note: The Google Streetview camera is positioned here at 15 Regent St. This is not a suggestion that hangars should be sited at 15 Regent Street.

The pavement on the south side of Regent Street might be too narrow to provide access to the hangar.

A four-cycle hangar provides an alternative, as sketched below.

Figure 1: Bollard arrangement

Figure 2: Face-to-face arrangement

OLS director Danny Yee discusses the “big picture” for Oxford transport. He touches on the importance of ground transportation as a contributor to global heating (and what we can do about it — hint: the answer isn’t “EVs”), the difficulty of treating cars as a mass-transport device in an urban environment (they are the least-space-efficient mode of transport) and what he makes of Oxfordshire’s new cabinet.

Danny’s slides are here.

Dick Wolff is Oxford City Council councillor for the St Mary’s ward in East Oxford. This letter is his response to a letter from a resident, who was unhappy about plans to introduce LTNs in the area. 


Not long ago I did a Google map directions search from Bedford Street (Iffley Fields) to the hospital and it gave a time difference between cutting through Magdalen Road and Divinity Road or going round The Plain of between one and two minutes. I don’t call that “totally taking away connectivity”!

As I’ve said, cutting off the Magdalen/Divinity Road cut-through would transfer that cutting-through traffic on to the Cowley or Iffley Roads. But the increase in traffic round the Plain that results – which I agree may happen – is unlikely to be any more than the increase that’s happened over the last five years as a result of the sheer increase in the volume of overall traffic, and the fact that the bus companies are having to run a third more buses than they need to. ‘Gridlock’ is a word being used a lot, but gridlock is when the system actually locks up and no one can move in any direction, so you have to bring a crane in. What you are talking about is traffic delays, not ‘gridlock’. By far the best way of preventing that congestion is by people who don’t need to use a car to make short journeys in our congested city finding another way of getting around, or car sharing. It is car drivers who are ‘imposing’ problems, because nobody voted for the traffic congestion we’ve had in recent years. Except, I suppose, car drivers themselves.

Businesses always complain they’ll lose business – but I’ve yet to hear a true story of one that has. The best thing business owners could do to make their case is to have a clipboard at the checkout and get customers to tick by which means of transport they got to the shop. Business owners often imagine that >80% of their customers come by car. In East Oxford I’d be surprised if it’s as much as 10%. Generally – as we found during lockdown – people not driving around drives up footfall to local businesses.

I had to grin when I saw the reference to people being able to get to the mosque. I’m a religious man – a retired church minister. An imam friend once told me that there is a passage in the Holy Qur’an that says that every footstep someone takes towards the mosque will be rewarded :

“He who purifies (performs Wudu’) himself in his house and then walks to one of the houses of Allah (mosque) for performing an obligatory Salat, one step of his will wipe out his sins and another step will elevate his rank.” (I can’t find the reference – I think it’s in the Jannah sura). Actually, on those occasions when I’ve attended the mosque I’ve rarely seen anyone arrive by car (other than taxi).

The one way system proposal — I imagine you mean the one that [a local taxi firm] has produced — would actually make matters worse. (1) it wouldn’t actually take any cars off the road or stop them driving through my ward, so it wouldn’t create a ‘low traffic neighbourhood’, which is the whole idea (2) it would encourage speeding because there would be nothing coming the other way, and a lot of people have told me they’re worried about speeding. We had a car on its roof in James Street last week, after it had hit residents’ cars speeding. (3) and when confused people make a mistake and go up a one way street the wrong way, or if a cyclist decides to chance it doing the same, I foresee road rage incidents and serious accidents. No thank you! Imagine Divinity or Southfield Road being one way and a cyclist bombing down it at 30 mph to find a car coming round the midway bend the other way (4) many residents would actually have to drive further to get to or from their house than they would with the LTN in place.

In St Marys, the ones you’re calling ‘lobby groups’ are elected councillors (both Labour and Green), and we’ve just been re-elected. We try to represent everybody, but in a world where there will never be consensus and yet decisions have to be made, we are also called to lead. Sometimes that means asking people to make concessions for the greater good, and for the weaker amongst us. One of the things I have resented in the criticisms is the accusation that disabled people and the poor will be more disadvantaged by the LTN. The exact opposite is the case. In a low traffic neighbourhood, people in wheelchairs, unaccompanied children walking, children on bikes, people who don’t have cars and so use a bike, can get about safely. With the East Oxford LTN in place, a twelve year old could cycle safely, unaccompanied, from James Street right through to the Kassam or Blackbird Leys on quiet roads (if they made a safe crossing at Church Cowley Rd). Yet only yesterday I had someone explaining that they “had to” drive their children to school when all they had to do was walk across Florence Park! School surveys show that children would much rather go to school under their own steam. No, the only ones disadvantaged are those rich enough to have cars, which in St Marys Ward is actually the minority. (Car ownership in the 2011 census was only 30% of households in some streets, 50% in the most streets).

There’s a selfishness in driving a car around for short journeys when you don’t need to: apart from the air pollution it creates, it clogs up the streets and makes journeys more difficult for those who actually need to use cars. That means some disabled people (I say “some” – my 93 year old father in law with knee replacements, a bad hip and macular degeneration, who struggles to walk 200m, doesn’t think twice about cycling up to the JR on his ebike), professional carers visiting clients, tradespeople trying to earn their living, taxi drivers likewise, delivery drivers . . . we need to get out of their way and let them get on with it. But unless those with the power to make those decisions actually do, individual drivers are not necessarily going to make that decision voluntarily – although many have done. I drive a car, but never within the city (other than to get out of it). I would challenge all those who use a car to make short journeys by car within the city to think about the impact it has on other people. If they think about it, they may conclude that the reason they prefer the car is because cycling is too dangerous, the bus is too slow. And the reason for that is . . . too many cars! It’s a self-created problem and it has become a vicious circle.

Please think about this and share the thinking with others. It’s not as simple as many think. I hope the East Oxford schemes go in soon, and let’s hope the trial works. When they did an LTN in Waltham Forest some years ago there was massive angry opposition from a minority (with coffins being paraded around in demonstrations!) and in the consultation it only got 54% support. A recent survey revealed that less than 2% would want to go back to how things were – and it hasn’t caused much increase on the arterial roads.

Peace to you.

Councillor Dick Wolff
St Mary’s Ward, Oxford

Please take a moment to tell the county council your views on the next batch of LTNs for Oxfordshire: St Mary’s, Divinity Road area, and St Clements area. Take the survey.

While you’re here …. Have you done everything you can to support the LTN trials in Cowley?

Please see our dedicated Cowley LTN page at oxlivsts.org.uk/cowley. You can also find information at liveablecowley.org.uk.

Please feel free to use the space below to post your comments and questions. All views are important and welcome. (Abusive comments will not be posted.)

Oxford is considering creating more city-centre space for people on foot and on cycle. The way to do this is by limiting the usage of city-centre streets by private motor traffic. This can be done via ANPR cameras at strategic points to enforce no-entry to private cars except those with exemptions.

A full discussion of the proposals is here, including details of the possible exempt categories of automobiles, hours of operation, location of ANPR cameras, etc. Note: The ANPR camera-control points are known as “bus gates”.
https://www.oxford.gov.uk/news/article/1496/councils_share_updates_on_temporary_bus_gates_proposals

Have you wondered why so many European cities manage to have space in the centre for people to relax and for cafes to have plentiful outdoor seating? Places with big pedestrian plazas? The reason they manage it is because they restrict access by car to the city centre. Now is our chance to do the same.

If you want to see the councils adopt these strategies, you need to complete the council’s consultation survey NOW. Survey closes at 11:59 PM on Sunday, August 9.

The survey can be found here: https://consultations.oxfordshire.gov.uk/consult.ti/oxfordbusgates/consultationHome

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For inspiration, look to the city of Ghent in Belgium.

And you can hear more about Ghent’s traffic circulation and how it has benefited Ghent during recovery from COVID-19 from the deputy of mayor of Ghent here:

https://www.crowdcast.io/e/connecting-oxford-meets

Oxfordshire Liveable Streets hosted a forum on the business impacts associated with low-traffic neighbourhoods.

What impact will Low Traffic Neighbourhoods have on your business?

You can now see the business forum online here: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/businesses-and-low

Here are some of the testimonials read out during the session. These businesses are located on the Francis Road or Orford Road in Waltham Forest.

Fraser McLelland, Froth and Rind:

Traffic reduction measures have had a huge positive impact on our business, allowing Orford Road to become a safe destination for families out for a meal, friends meeting for a coffee, shoppers and more. With more space for outside seating, the summer months have a continental feel with lots of people dining outside or stocking up on provisions.

Eliza Parkes, Yardarm:

We opening our business in 2015 on a busy road. Very often we had cars and vans parked outside.On the upside was that people could drive to collect orders and deliveries were easy. (This is actually still the case and we are also improving our own delivery service)

When the plans were announced we were happy. Dans family have a business on Orford Rd in Walthamstow and had benefited from the scheme. We had seen the problems there too but each time they repeat the scheme they seem to be ironing out the kinks (mainly about redirecting traffic)

We have found it positive. At weekends families take over the road and it’s easy and safe to spend longer hanging out and shopping. We have been busier. It’s also great for events and we think there is a stronger sense of community once everyone is used to it. Deliveries haven’t been a problem (but ask them to make provision in the plans. This has been the hardest part for us with lots of big deliveries to our wine shop and deli.)

As parents, business owners and residents on the road, it’s life changing. The air is cleaner and it feels so much safer. GO FOR IT.

Aimée Madill, Phlox Books

Pedestrianisation has been overwhelmingly beneficial to my business personally, and I believe the general feeling of community and unity in our diverse neighbourhood. People, both immediately local and from further away, view it as a one stop ‘destination’ and are often seen pottering from shop to shop. With its relaxed, car-free atmosphere it encourages them to stop to eat and drink, and creates a street that is not only a destination for relaxation but becomes their first thought when they need to purchase specific items.

Concerns and complaints that it would ‘kill off’ shops that relied on passing trade and had items that needed to be transported by car were soon shown to be unfounded as the street is busier as a pleasant ‘destination’ than it ever was as a through road and the reality is that few had items large enough to need transport/could become innovative with local eco-friendly delivery services on the few occasions that they were.

Helen Clarke, Edie Rose

Since the pedestrianisation of Francis Road we are able to present our business outside the shop as well as in. Before, the parked cars (always the same parked cars) came right up to our outside space and we couldn’t put anything outside as it would be blocking the pavement. Cars would speed past at high speed and the road was used was a little bit of a rabbit run to cut out the main road.

Francis Road is now a community hub with seating and places to relax. Cafes and shops have seating outside and children play on the street. If feels safe and calm. Pollution is low and our business has been affected positively in terms of sales/revenue because customers spend more time on the road.

We use our cargo bike for local deliveries and use the loading bays and 2 hour parking slots for when we need to accept bigger deliveries. It really does work.

1 June 2020

Yvonne Constance OBE
Cabinet Member for Environment
Oxfordshire County Council

Re: Emergency Active Travel Funding

Dear Councillor Constance,

The undersigned organisations – Oxfordshire Liveable Streets, Oxford Friends of the Earth and Oxford Civic Society – are delighted to see that the funding allocation made to Oxfordshire by the Department for Transport (DfT) recognises the particular challenges faced by Oxfordshire with its dependence on public transport.  And we support the initiatives already suggested by the council, such as extending 20mph speed limits, installing new cycle parking, and implementing School Streets schemes. But these initiatives do not go far enough to meet the guidelines from DfT for the funding. So we would like to offer some suggestions as to how Oxford City’s share of the funding could be best used.

The DfT letter of 27 May announcing the Emergency Active Travel Funding Indicative Allocations explicitly recommends: “closing roads to through traffic and installing segregated cycle lanes and widening pavements”, “reallocation of road space on strategic corridors”, and “point closures”. It urges local authorities to “act now to embed walking and cycling as part of new long-term commuting habits”.  But there is also the constraint that work needs to be started within four weeks and completed within eight weeks; there is a recommendation that local authorities implement “schemes already planned in Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans” (LCWIPs).

We hope the planning already under way is integrated and strategic, and support interventions being coordinated in a few larger projects. Individual point closures may have little effect or even be counterproductive, so they should be done as part of coherent low traffic neighbourhood areas or circulation schemes. Similarly, upgrades to short, isolated stretches of cycle routes are unlikely to have much effect in enabling cycling, so we recommend focus on one major route.

We therefore suggest the following:

  1. Implementation of at least one Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN), as specifically recommended by DfT (“Point closures can also be used to create low-traffic filtered neighbourhoods”) and already included in the county’s LCWIP for Oxford (pdf).
  2. Reallocation of space along one key Oxford arterial from motor traffic to walking and cycling to create a continuous, high quality and high capacity cycling route and better conditions for people walking, in line with the DfT recommendation of “reallocating space on a strategic corridor”.
  3. Within the city centre, reallocation of space from parking and carriageway to pavements and cycle tracks.

These interventions can be made at low cost on a temporary basis.  If they prove successful, they would form the basis for applications for “tranche 2” funding to both make them permanent and to replicate them in other neighbourhoods and on other arterial routes.

There are detailed plans in existence for LTNs for the Florence Park and St Marys areas of East Oxford, and less formal plans for Headington Quarry, Church Cowley and Jericho. While these plans involve additional measures that would take longer to implement and cost more, their key point closures (modal filters) could be implemented using the cheap temporary measures the DfT guidelines envisage, and more fully implemented if made permanent later.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods would support “short and local journeys which can now be walked or cycled” but may also, depending on the location, help to improve strategic cycle routes and thus enable some longer-distance cycle trips. City Cycle Route 5 runs through the Florence Park, St Marys and Jericho areas, and Route 3a through Headington Quarry.

We urge that you push forward at least one LTN proposal for emergency implementation.

Improving walking and cycling on arterials would enable park-and-cycle, perhaps accompanying expanded bike hire schemes, and potentially park-and-walk to replace some park-and-ride trips, as well as enabling more local trips to be walked or cycled.

Given the DfT insistence on “full or light segregation”, implementation of a continuous cycle route on an arterial will involve such measures as:

  • Dedicating entire roads to walking and cycling, where parallel routes exist.
  • Removal of on-street parking.
  • Repurposing bus lanes as dedicated cycle tracks.
  • Reallocating other carriageway space, such as turning lanes.
  • Shifting cycle tracks off pavements and reducing reliance on shared walking-cycling space, freeing up space for people walking and reducing conflicts between walking and cycling.
  • Reworking junction signalling to favour pedestrians and to enable safe cycling movements.
  • At pinch points, using temporary traffic signals to alternate the direction of motor traffic flows (as is done during roadworks) and/or prioritise people cycling.

But these need to be part of a coherent overall scheme.

The route into the city from the West (the Botley Rd) might be a candidate for this. It lacks any alternative cycle routes and is the shortest of the major arterials — short enough that walking from Seacourt Park&Ride into the city is feasible. Motor traffic can be removed from Hythe Bridge Street, thanks to the availability of the parallel Park End St. And work is due to start soon on a Botley Rd upgrade; resources for that could be redeployed to emergency measures now, which could then either be undone or made permanent as part of the full upgrade.

Within the city centre there is an urgent need for a general reallocation of space from parking and carriageway to footpaths and where appropriate cycle tracks. This could be done on an emergency basis by:

  • Removing general parking from within the centre proper, from Broad St, Beaumont St, St Giles, High St, and so forth.
  • Using space freed up by that to provide alternative locations for bus stops and buses to wait, freeing up space in areas such as Magdalen Sts East and West and George St.
  • Using the freed space to significantly widen footpaths, using cones or other temporary barriers.
  • Where there are significant motor traffic flows, such as on St Giles and Beaumont St, creating proper cycle tracks, lightly segregated using wands or other such measures.
  • Changing junction timings to favour pedestrians, to avoid crowds accumulating on busy corners, and to enable safe cycle movements.

With additional funding, these changes could where effective be made permanent, alongside broader public realm improvements.

We hope that you will view these proposals as serious and constructive, keeping in mind the DfT statement that “Anything that does not meaningfully alter the status quo on the road will not be funded”.  We hope to stay in communication with you and work together to take advantage of this opportunity. This funding will allow us to reap the benefits that active travel, encouraged by safer routes to schools, shops, workplaces, and schools, brings to our beautiful city. We all want to see reduced congestion, better air quality, a pleasant street scene, liveable neighbourhoods, and most importantly improved health and wellbeing for everyone who uses the city streets. 

Signed, 

Oxfordshire Liveable Streets

Oxford Friends of the Earth

Oxford Civic Society

This scheme for a liveable neighbourhood in the St Mary’s area (including Howard Street and Magdalen Road) was commissioned by city councillors Craig Simmons and Dick Wolff and has the support of city and county councillors for the affected areas.

St Marys Low Traffic Neighbourhood Presentation 26th March 2020